Jesus Wept

Read John 11.32-44

Christians throughout the ages have affirmed that Jesus is fully God and fully human. Not one and then the other. Both at the same time. 

Yet, many people have struggled to hold together these paradox. Some lean too heavily on the human side of Jesus, claiming he was only a great moral teacher, a model for our lives, a human example for us to follow. They fail to respect the power of God in him. Others lean too heavily on the divine side of Christ, pointing to his miracles, his healing touch, his victory over sin and death. They overlook his pain, his joy, his laughter and his tears. Still others claim Jesus took the divine form on some occasions and at other times, the human. 

But Christians still affirm that Jesus was and is fully human and fully divine.

Our Gospel lesson provides a wonderful illustration of this.

Jesus is sent a message that his friend, Lazarus, has dying. At first he seems to dismiss it, and goes about his healing ministry for others. When he arrives at Bethany, he discovers that Lazarus has died. His sister, Martha goes to meet Jesus and, with a rage born of grief, yells at him.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Still, she has clings desperately to faith, “even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha professes her faith in Jesus, her absolute trust that the power of God in him can conquer anything, even death.

Jesus continues towards the village. Mary greets him with the same words as her sister, only with more sad disappointment than rage, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus sees her crying, along with others. Our text reads, “He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.”

The grief of Jesus is first grief over the lack of faith demonstrated by the people gathered at the tomb of Lazarus. It’s not so much that he is bothered by them being upset with him. It is natural for us to be troubled when God, in Christ, disappoints us. But even then, God wants us to have the faith that He will set things straight.

“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asks. They lead him there. The sight of the sealed tomb with the body of his friend laid out was too much for him. Jesus, fully God and fully human, wept.

It is not difficult to understand how Jesus, as a human being, would cry tears of grief over the loss of a close friend. It’s another thing to accept that God, who is immutable, would be affected in this way. People tend to think of the divine God as beyond human emotion, untouched by human concerns such as grief and sorrow.

This has been the view of some philosophies, but it is not Biblical. As we look at the whole of Scripture, we discover that God is deeply affected by how we experience life. God does not just sit back and observe. God fully enters into our lives.

The tears of Jesus are an expression of care, the compassion he felt for a friend. In spite of his divine nature, or said better, because of it, Jesus enters most fully into our human experience, including the depth of our emotions. In Christ, God rejoices with us in our gladness and weeps with us in our sadness.

These tears are the place where the human and the divine meet. The human and divine Jesus is overcome with sorrow over the loss of a friend, enters the cave and restores life to Lazarus. Our Heavenly Father is not immune from emotion. At the same time, God exercises divine authority to rescue us from the darkness of our suffering, to bring victory out of defeat.

Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, leads us through the darkness of despair, into the light of life.

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